Tokyo Weekender - February 2017

tokyoweekender

The People of Okinawa
Meet Three Locals Who Represent the Colorful and Creative Energy of the Islands

Plus: Peek Inside Love Hotels, Snowsurfing in Fukushima, and Is Japan Biased Against Those with Disabilities?

FEBRUARY 2017

Japan’s number one English language magazine

THE PEOPLE OF

OKINAWA

MEET THREE LOCALS WHO REPRESENT THE COLORFUL

AND CREATIVE ENERGY OF THE ISLANDS

PLUS: Peek Inside Love Hotels, Snowsurfing in Fukushima, and Is Japan Biased Against Those with Disabilities?


24

16

28

30

radar

THIS MONTH’S HEAD TURNERS

8 AREA GUIDE: NAKAMEGURO

Things to see on the banks of the Meguro

River, including a brand-new "mall."

10 STYLE

A few pretty little things to help brighten

up pre-spring days.

12 BEAUTY

Three moisturizing products and three head

spa treatments to rescue tired tresses.

in-depth

COFFEE-BREAK READS

15 THE PEOPLE OF OKINAWA

We meet three talented locals who represent

the colorful and creative energy of Okinawa.

21 NAHA NIGHTS

Planning a visit to Okinawa? Here are five

reasons to choose Loisir Hotel & Spa Tower

Naha as your luxurious base.

24 BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

As everyone everywhere celebrates love

this month, we chat with photographer

Zaza Bertrand about her new photo book,

which reveals intimate moments from

inside Japan's love hotels.

28 JAPAN'S FORGOTTEN ONES

Last year's Sagamihara massacre highlighted

the country's ongoing bias against people

with disabilities. We investigate the reasons

behind the discrimination.

30 SURFING THE SNOW

Snowsurfing is enjoying a global revival,

and Fukushima's powdery backcountry

is the perfect place to try it.

guide &

education

CULTURE ROUNDUP, AND OUR

FEBRUARY EDUCATION SPECIAL

34 ART & COMEDY

Our pick of the city's best exhibitions, plus

three comedy shows to keep you laughing.

36 AGENDA

Chocolate heaven, a stimulating projection

mapping show, and a friendly fun run.

38 EDUCATION SPECIAL

How the British School in Tokyo is still

achieving top results, and Aoba Japan International

School is creating global citizens.

42 PEOPLE, PARTIES, PLACES

National Day celebrations and a few fond

farewells to old friends.

FEBRUARY 2017


FEBRUARY 2017

Publisher

President

Executive Producers

Editor in Chief

Senior Editor

Creative Director

Features Writer

Contributors

Sales Director

Sales Executives

Media Strategist

Media Consultant

Media Relations

Media Producers

ENGAWA Co., Ltd.

Takanobu Ushiyama

Asi Rinestine

Naoya Takahashi

Annemarie Luck

Alec Jordan

Liam Ramshaw

Matthew Hernon

Vivian Morelli

Luca Eandi

Bill Hersey

Bunny Bissoux

Takaaki Murai

Hirofumi Ohuchi

Kahori Terakawa

Nobu (Nick) Nakazawa

Yu Suzuki

Mandy Lynn

Mary Rudow

Junko Shimaya

Jessica "Yumi" Idomoto

Claudia Sun

EST. Corky Alexander, 1970

SSU Bld. 1F 4-12-8 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku

Tokyo, Japan 151-0051

(03) 6432-9948 / (03) 6438-9432 (fax)

editor@tokyoweekender.com

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Opinions expressed by Weekender contributors

are not necessarily those of the publisher

Published by ENGAWA Co., Ltd.

4 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


@bapawn: Annemarie, if you had to choose between

a tropical getaway in Okinawa or getting radical

on the slopes of northern Honshu [page 30] for a

February holiday, which would you choose?

@mizrama: I would have to choose Okinawa, for two

reasons: I will always pick beach over mountains,

and I’ve only been skiing three times since moving

to Japan, so “getting radical” is not really part of my

repertoire on the slopes. How about you?

@bapawn: Actually, I’ve never gone skiing or

snowboarding before, so I only feel entitled to

use the phrase “getting radical” because I’m from

California … I think I’d take Okinawa as well. As

much as the weather down there is lovely, the people

seem so too.

@mizrama: Yes, I think our cover feature [page 15]

proves that. I love the story of karate master Masaaki

Ikemiyagi … how he admits to getting into fights as a

teen, but found humility through karate. I think our

cover shot of him really expresses that.

@bapawn: I still haven’t been, but it just seems

like there’s some kind of mysterious romance to

Okinawa.

@mizrama: So Valentine’s month would be the

perfect time to visit. It’s probably also a good time to

visit a love hotel, for those who want to spice things

up. Although Zaza Bertrand’s photo series about

love hotels [page 26] does show them in a slightly

different light to how they’re usually portrayed.

@bapawn: That was a fascinating interview, and

I’d really like to see more of her photo series. I

thought her perspectives on this uniquely Japanese

phenomenon were quite insightful.

@mizrama: And the sheer number of them around town

certainly contradict all those “sexless Japan” stories...

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TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 5


6 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR THIS MONTH...

Check out Nakameguro's new mall of restaurants under the railway, buy a little sexy

something, and give your hair the attention it deserves.

8 AREA GUIDE 10 STYLE 12 TRENDS

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 7


AREA GUIDE

OLD AND NEW

IN NAKAMEGURO

EVEN WHEN THE CHERRY TREES AREN’T IN BLOOM, THERE’S A BLOSSOMING

COMMUNITY ON THE BANKS OF THE MEGURO RIVER, INCLUDING A BRAND-

NEW SPACE UNDER THE RAILWAY FILLED WITH CUTE EATERIES

Words and photographs by Luca Eandi

A RIVER RUNS

THROUGH IT

One of Tokyo’s most scenic settings

for hanami season, the Meguro

River slices through Nakameguro,

serving as the backbone of this thriving

neighborhood. On top of being

prime real estate for boutiques,

restaurants and cafés, the riverside

is a popular strolling path, as well as

a pedestrian-friendly track for joggers

and dog-walkers alike. Follow

the river upstream to Meguro Sky

Garden, by the Municipal Library,

and you’ll be treated to a peaceful

garden retreat 35 meters above the

street with ample city views. Nearby,

Saigoyama Park is an ideal green

space for a sunny picnic, light sport

activity or carefree people-watching.

WHAT’S IN STORE

The neighborhood’s businesses cater

to artists, designers and celebrities

who have put down roots here, making

for an eclectic mix of boutiques. EEL

sells high quality clothing like simple

jeans, button-ups and jackets. The Mix

has vintage men’s and women’s wear.

1LDK carries local and international

brands of outerwear and accessories,

while Vase specializes in lesser-known

European labels. Irma Records|Merch

Store deals in vinyl along with their

own unique branded merchandise.

For knick-knacks, gifts and furnishings,

Shop Detail has an array of quirky

items. Tokyobike has a shop in the

neighborhood to pick up some stylish

wheels. And no visit to Nakameguro is

complete without a visit to Cow Books

for reading materials.

8 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


RESTAURANTS

Like any respectable Tokyo neighborhood, Nakameguro is teeming with great restaurants

for a night out. Late last year, the selection grew even bigger with the opening of

Nakameguro Koukashita (www.nakamegurokoukashita.jp), a 700m stretch of cafés, bars

and eateries that runs underneath the raised railway tracks at Nakameguro Station. Here

you can sample ramen, udon, sushi, Spanish cuisine, sake, and plenty of other culinary

delights. Head away from the station to fine Craftale, which provides high-concept dining

from a former Joël Robuchon chef. Along the same lines, Sourire does its version of

Japanese-meets-French food. For something a little wilder, Yakiyama specializes in grilling

game like pheasant, boar and deer. Xin Xian is a great spot for shabu-shabu, as is Kijima.

Award-winning pizzaiolo Hisanori Yamamoto got his training in Naples, which makes his

Da Isa Pizzeria as authentic as you’ll find in Tokyo. One of the best Mexican spots

in the city, Junkadelic, will sate your craving for enchiladas. Sun 2 Diner deals in

American standards like hamburgers, sandwiches and BBQ.

GET HIP TO IT

Nakameguro has a laid-back vibe

within an urban setting, making it a

natural fit for a younger, international,

hip crowd. This translates into a

remarkably high concentration of

coffee shops in the neighborhood,

including standouts Onibus, Streamer

and a fresh branch of Blue Bottle. For

coffee and books, head to the newly

opened Nakameguro Koukashita

where you can buy a latte and browse

magazines at the sleek mini branch

of Tsutaya Books. Charles Schulztribute

Peanuts Cafe and the scenic

Sidewalk Stand also offer up a tasty

cup, as well as good lunch fare. For nut

aficionados, Groovy Nuts is a specialty

store serving raw and creatively

flavored almonds, cashews, walnuts

and more. There’s quite a few worldclass

bakeries in the area as well – City

Bakery, Ecole Criollo, Trasparente

and Tavern, to name a few.

OPEN HOUSE

Kyu Asakura House sits in Daikanyama, a

fashionable quarter bordering Nakameguro.

The home and garden, commissioned in

1919 by Torajiro Asakura, a chairman of the

Metropolitan Assembly, was used to conduct

business and entertain guests. It’s an important

cultural property, as it is one of the few

remaining wooden houses in the area that

survived the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake

and carpet bombings during World War II.

The architecture incorporates elements from

the Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras and endures

as an ideal specimen for those styles. A bonus

for thrifty visitors – the house and surrounding

gardens can be visited for the admission

fee of a mere ¥100.

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 9


STYLE

JIMMY CHOO STILETTOS

February may be the shortest month, but it can feel like the longest.

Therefore, bright and shiny things are needed to add some excitement

to this otherwise dreary time of the year, like this pair of Jimmy Choo

pumps. Crafted from smooth silver mirrored leather, they may seem a

tad flashy at first sight, but they won't look out of place combined with

a simple pair of jeans or little black dress. Equipped with a sleek stiletto

heel and pointy toe, this classic Romy style won't, well, go out of style.

jimmychoo.jp

BRIGHTEN UP PRE-SPRING DAYS WITH

SOMETHING SHINY, SOMETHING STYLISH,

AND SOMETHING BLUE

Compiled by Vivian Morelli

LA PERLA CHEMISE

When it comes to lingerie, La Perla is

the epitome of luxury. Instilled with a

“made in Italy” heritage, the brand is

synonymous with femininity, elegance

and sophistication. This pale blue

chemise is the perfect example of the

label's skillful corsetry and meticulous

detailing. Designed to hug your curves

in all the right places, this piece is made

from silky soft jersey and trimmed with

lace. Pair it with the matching bra and

briefs for an impeccable look.

laperla.com


TOM FORD PERFUME

You will be tempted to buy this not only based on the scent, but on

the dreamy look of the bottle. Suitable for both men and women,

this Tom Ford fragrance was inspired by the luxurious Italian

Riviera resort of Portofino. Just like the coveted vacation spot, it

oozes opulence and old-school glamour. The turquoise bottle is

reminiscent of the Mediterranean Sea, and the top notes of this

citrusy perfume are bergamot, orange, lemon and lavender.

tomford.com

SMYTHSON CURRENCY CASE

Smythson, known for its sumptuous stationery and leather

goods, is once again winning at the accessories game with this

color-trimmed and gold-zippered currency case. Ideal for the

frequent traveler, it can be used to organize the different types

of notes needed when hopping from one country to another.

It's also big enough to hold a passport, so this might be the

most practical yet stylish airport companion.

smythson.com

ISABEL MARANT

ETOILE SCARF

Although spring is right around the

corner, there are still many weeks

of cold weather ahead, and even

though you promised yourself

you won't be buying any more

winter accessories, you might

change your mind with this scarf.

Made from a blend of wool and

cashmere, this frayed scarf from

Isabel Marant's Etoile collection is

a vivid mix of red, beige and black

yarns. It will keep you warm until

the start of spring, and probably

even through hanami season.

isabelmarant.com0

LA MER EYE GEL

It's never a bad idea to pamper your skin,

especially the delicate area around your eyes,

during winter. The cold temperatures can leave

your skin parched, and late nights out tend to

easily show their effects. This hydrating eye gel

from iconic skin care line La Mer comes to the

rescue, as it combats signs of aging, fatigue and

stress. Dab a tiny amount around your eyes

morning and evening, and let the cooling effect

soothe and revitalize your skin.

cremedelamer.com


BEAUTY

OWAY COLORUP BY ROLLAND

Perfect for color-treated hair is Oway’s all-natural, biodynamic and organic

ColorUp Color Protection range. The Hair Mask and Veil contain biodynamic

red grapevine and organic goji berries to revitalize hair fiber, retain color

vibrancy and slow down hair aging – all this whilst keeping your hair soft and

beautiful. For optimal results, we recommend the Hair Bath too, as it deeply

cleanses and softens. Bonus: you’ll leave the house smelling like sweet plum –

what’s not to love? Hair Bath, ¥3,400, Hair Mask, ¥3,200, Veil, ¥3,600, available

from Assort Hair or via rolland-organic-onlineshop.office-taxi.jp.

More information at rolland.jp

GOOD HAIR DAYS

IT’S NOT JUST SKIN THAT NEEDS AN EXTRA DOSE OF LOVE

AND MOISTURE DURING WINTER. TRY THESE PRODUCTS

AND HEAD SPA TREATMENTS FOR SHINIER, HAPPIER HAIR

Compiled by Mandy Lynn and Annemarie Luck

LORETTA BASE CARE

OIL BY MOLTOBENE

Japanese hair-care range Loretta,

which features a line of waxes, styling

milks, and oils, was originally created

for use in hair salons, so know that the

price tag indicates professional-grade

quality. Their Base Care Oil is a leave-in

treatment that has a soft rose fragrance

(aromatherapy bonus!) and is super

nourishing and moisturizing, helping

to keep hair sleek and shiny all day.

¥2,600, www.loretta-jp.com


PREMIUM

HEAD SPA AT

ASSORT HAIR

Taking luxury to a new

level is international hair

salon Assort Hair, with

its Premium Head Spa

that uses 100% organic

and natural products by

fair trade brand Oway

(see products on opposite

page). A hair consultation

first determines the best

suited products for you,

after which you are treated

to an application of scalp

treatment oils, a special

shampoo and treatment

massage, and – the best

part – a head and shoulder

massage so relaxing we

drifted off to Dreamland

on our visit. ¥6,000,

www.assort-hair.com

FLOW HEAD SPA AT

VIP CREATIVE

If stress is keeping you up at night,

VIP Creative’s Flow Head Spa is

just what you need. More than the

usual feel-good treatment, this one

incorporates traditional massage

methods to relieve muscle stiffness,

promote blood flow, and awaken the

parasympathetic nervous system to

ease you into a relaxed state whilst

improving the body’s immune system.

From ¥4,000, www.vipcreativehair.jp

JEMILE FRAN MELTY

BUTTER BY MILBON

Launched last year, Japanese beauty

brand Jemile Fran’s Melty Butter

Balm and Melty Butter Beautifying

Hair Treatment are ideal for the

busy working lady – hair care that

doubles up as a hair styling product.

The latter is great if you’re going

for naturally loose curls, while the

balm offers higher holding power.

Containing moringa butter, these

treatments stimulate your scalp by

increasing blood circulation whilst

leaving your hair silky smooth.

Melty Butter Balm, ¥2,200, Melty

Butter Beautifying Hair Treatment,

¥2,000, available at Hair Salon NALU

or via www.jemilefran.jp

Special offer for first-time customers:

Mention “Tokyo Weekender” to

receive 20% off your treatment, or a

complimentary Kerastase treatment

(worth ¥3,000).

ULTRASONIC IRON

TREATMENT AT HAIR

SALON NALU

While most iron treatments use heat,

the Ultrasonic Iron Treatment at

NALU uses intense vibrations (37,000

beats per second!) to separate protein,

water and oil particles, allowing for

deeper penetration into the hair

structure, resulting in softer, more

manageable locks. Recommended for

hair damaged by chemicals. ¥7,560,

www.nalu-style.com

Follow us on Instagram

@tokyoweekender to win a customized

hair treatment at Hair Salon NALU.


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14 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


ISLAND CHARM

There's more to Okinawa's beauty than meets the eye – there's a special kind of warmth

and creativity in the people who live there. Over the next few pages we introduce you

to three spirited locals who are helping to put the prefecture on the global map.

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 15


[ PROMOTION ]

THE PEOPLE

OF OKINAWA

The islands of Okinawa are having a moment: tourist numbers are climbing as the

world catches on to the prefecture's unspoilt beauty. But aside from its lush green

nature and crystal clear ocean, what makes Okinawa so alluring? It's the people, of

course. Weekender recently met three talented locals who represent the colorful and

creative energy of the islands. Allow us to introduce you...

Words by John Amari

OKINAWAN

KARATE IS MORE

THAN MARTIAL

ARTS. IT IS A WAY

OF CULTIVATING

THE SPIRIT

16 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


Photos by Richard Lee

THE KARATE MASTER:

MASAAKI IKEMIYAGI

Masaaki Ikemiyagi has an easy-going manner,

but he was not always this jovial. By his

own admission, he was a bit of a tearaway

in his youth. Slight but feisty, the young

Ikemiyagi was not one to back down from

a fight. “I’m physically small. So I wanted to

level the playing field, even with people who

were larger than me.”

As a teen, he took up karate, joining a dojo

(martial arts gym) in Naha, Okinawa, not far

from his hometown, Nago City. Ikemiyagi’s

parents were worried: wouldn't karate lead

their boy further into trouble? But rather than

encourage mayhem, training in karate leads

to self-control, explains Ikemiyagi, who is

now a master of Goju-ryu karate and teaches

thousands of students from around the world.

“Thanks to karate, I became humble.”

Okinawa is the birthplace of karate. It is

an indigenous art with a heritage that goes

back to the local Ryukyu Kingdom (15th to

19th century). “Okinawan karate is more

than martial arts,” says Master Ikemiyagi.

“It addresses the mind and body and teaches

tenacity and dignity. It is a way of cultivating

the spirit.” It's hard to believe that

this gentle, welcoming 63-year-old was once

a troublemaker. But there is another, more

serious side to the Master, which unveils

itself after he and I spend a few minutes

engaging in kumite (free sparring)...

I throw a jab. Master Ikemiyagi parries

and shifts out of the way like a cat. His left

hand simultaneously clamps my outstretched

arm in a vice-like grip, his right

delivers a series of lightning strikes towards

my neck. It's all a blur. Thankfully, this is

not mortal combat. Shaken, but still standing,

I throw a kick. The Master blocks with

his right leg, and, using the same leg, strikes

at the back of my standing leg, throwing me

off balance. I feel completely at his mercy.

Master Ikemiyagi has a personality

so magnetic that he may as well be 6 foot

5 inches tall. While small in stature, he is

built like an ox; he kicks like a mule. When

we move to the side of the dojo, where free

weights, a punching bag, and a makiwara

(a traditional, wooden “punch-pole”) are located,

I discover something else about him:

“I have a pretty strong punch, you know.” I

believe him. His knuckles are calloused and

bulbous. And when he

punches the makiwara,

the ground shakes.

Next, we sit at a

low table next to the

dojo, which he built

himself 37 years ago. I

watch him, dressed in a

white do-gi (martial arts

uniform), as he gently

but precisely draws Japanese

calligraphy. His

posture is erect, his legs

folded beneath him. The

Master’s favorite saying

comes back to me, and

it reflects why he loves

karate: “When a flexible person defeats

a strong person.”

I WANT PEOPLE

TO ALSO SAY

KUSUINATAN,

AN OKINAWA

SAYING THAT

MEANS KUSURINI

NARIMASHITA (THE

FOOD BECAME

MEDICINAL)

THE CULINARY QUEEN:

KATSUE WATANABE

Katsue Watanabe is on a mission. She wants

the world to know the secrets of Okinawan

food and longevity. She also wants you not

just to enjoy the region’s offerings, but to

revel in their unique qualities. “Rather than

just saying gochisousama (that was delicious),

I want people to also say kusuinatan,

an Okinawan saying that means kusurini

narimashita (this food was good medicine).”

The people of Okinawa are rightfully

proud of their legendary lifespans: the

prefecture has some of the highest longevity

indices on Earth. Watanabe believes there

are two reasons for this. The first is their

approach to life: “‘Que sera, sera.' (What

will be, will be.) Whether it’s a good or bad

thing, that is our mentality. It contributes to

our good health.” The second is Okinawan

food. On a large table in Watanabe’s family-run

hotel, 50 different items are immaculately

laid out. The entire energy count is

585 calories, the equivalent of one anpan

(a sweet roll filled with red bean paste).

Where to begin? I reach for a small

glass of handmade soy milk. It’s almost

like pure white water. I reach for another

drink, an Okinawan citrus juice, which is

fresh and has a bitter yet enjoyable kick to

it. From what I can tell, each item seems

like it’s part food, part medicine. Watanabe

explains: “Our carrots contain more beta

carotene than carrots anywhere else. Over

here, you have fish, celery, purple potato,

blue papaya...”

Further along, there are scallions, and

handama, which is an Okinawan herb that

locals refer to as nuchigusui (Okinawan

dialect meaning “medicine for the soul”

as it aids blood circulation and increases

longevity). Light, fluffy pink bread is within

reach, so I grab it and break off three

pieces. I spread yellow ukon (turmeric),

white sesame jam, and blueberry jam on

each. It's a colorful, delicious dance of

flavors. The fruit and vegetables are next

– Luffa aegyptiaca (Egyptian cucumber),

raw mozuku (sea weed), ozenzai (red bean

soup), tougan (ash gourd), and yushidoufu

(soft tofu) soup. I savor every morsel.

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 17


[ PROMOTION ]

THE SOIL HERE

IS GENTLE, SO

THE KINDNESS OF

OKINAWAN PEOPLE

IS EXPRESSED IN

OUR POTTERY

Watanabe tells me that the level of ultraviolet

rays in Okinawa, which can be four times

higher than in other parts of the country,

make for vegetables that are rich in vitamins.

Moreover, gusts of wind from the ocean

ensure the island’s soils are saturated with

nutrients and minerals.

Watanabe’s breakfast is inspired. But

how did it all begin? Some 40 years ago, her

mother traveled to Europe and the US. To

her surprise, she found that many places

offered the same breakfast she did in her

hotel: bacon, toast, coffee and so on. Rather

than continue serving that same breakfast,

Watanabe’s mother chose an original

approach. For inspiration, she relied on her

own mother’s cooking. Yakuzen choushoku

(breakfast with 50 pickled items) was born.

Today, Watanabe – who has a medicinal

cooking certificate – is the manager of

her family’s 63 year-old hotel, the Okinawa

Daiichi Hotel. She is also the custodian of her

family’s culinary culture, and her customers

from around the world come not just to enjoy

her meals, but to discover the secret at the

heart of good living in Okinawa.

THE POTTERY PRINCESS:

YUMIKO KINJO

Few things are as quintessentially Okinawan

as ceramics. The tradition goes back centuries,

having reached the Ryukyu Islands

via the Silk Road and China. For Yumiko

Kinjo, pottery is in the family line. Thanks

to her architect father, her home was filled

not just with ceramics but also traditional

crafts. “When I went to college in Okinawa, I

decided to study pottery, and my professors

introduced me to different styles. That was

how my passion grew,” she says.

At first, Kinjo was inspired to make earthenware

as she had a love for monotones. That

would change, however, when she entered

her forties. “That’s

when I started adding

colors.” Today, pottery

is as much a part of

her life as the air that

she breathes. Indeed,

much of her inspiration

comes from the

nature and culture of

Okinawa itself. “The

sunlight is very strong

in Okinawa and it

affects everything

here – the sky and the

flowers are vibrant.”

An avid traveler,

Kinjo is also inspired

by her overseas trips.

“I like going abroad

to enjoy different

types of nature. The

colors in Northern Europe, for example, are

completely different to those here.” It is little

wonder that some of Kinjo’s biggest successes

have been overseas, where she has held exhibitions.

“The response was great in Taiwan

and South Korea. Lots of people say, ‘I’ve

never seen anything like this.’”

Prevailing trends are another source of

her inspiration. Recently, there has been a

revival of traditional styles in Okinawa, which

tend to favor monotones, but colors are also

back in vogue. Before pottery became a popular

art form in Okinawa, urushi (lacquer work)

with its bright hues was one of the preeminent

crafts. In part due to the soil of the island

– “which is soft, just like its people" – pottery

began to gain in popularity. “The soil here is

gentle, so the kindness of Okinawan people is

expressed in our pottery.”

Seven years ago, Kinjo and her co-creators

established a workshop and display space in

Okinawa called Tituti (www.tituti.net). “The ti

in Tituti means te (hand). Tsukurite refers to

the artists or producers of the ceramics, while

tsunagite is a reference to the visitors who

connect with our work.” With non-Japanese

and younger visitors on the rise, Kinjo says

she would like to see more people taking up

the art.

But where do you start? Easy. “Imagine

who you want to make the pottery for. It could

be a loved one – perhaps your grandma. Then,

imagine how they would hold it. Size is really

important. It is easy to make the pottery, once

you know whom you want to make it for.”

18 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


[ PROMOTION ]

The Next

Best Thing

Weekender joined ANTOR-Japan’s glittering end-of-year

party to learn more about the country’s future tourism

goals, and how Okinawa, specifically, aims to transform

itself into the next best international resort

Even if you haven’t yet

traveled to Okinawa, you’ll

have heard about a few key

features that set the prefecture

apart from others.

At ANTOR-Japan’s 50th anniversary and

Christmas party, held on December 6 at

Oakwood Premier’s luxurious lounge in

Tokyo Midtown, guests were treated to a

number of these cultural characteristics:

we dined on local cuisine including a dish

of goya (bitter melon); we swayed along to

the sounds of a sanshin played by a local

musician; and we marveled at the karate

techniques performed by Master Akihito

Yagi of the International Meibukan Gojyu-ryu

Association.

But while the focus of the event was

on all things Okinawan, we also learnt

that ANTOR-Japan – which stands for The

Association of National Tourist Office

Representatives in Japan – is taking steps

to improve Japan’s understanding of

international tourism. Every year, for

example, the group organizes a travel

fair called “Let’s Go Kaigai!” to help and

encourage and develop the industry. Established

in 1966, the association is made

up of national tourist

office representatives,

has welcomed Mr.

Edouard Tripkovic

Katayama as the chairman

in 2015.

Speaking at the

event, Katayama said,

“Tourism is an important

economic generator,

reaching almost 10

percent of gross GDP,

and forecasted to continue

growing in the

coming decades.” Last

year, Katayama was

instrumental in founding

the Antor Peace

Movement 21 project,

which stresses the importance

of peace, not only in the tourism

industry, but for our overall wellbeing.

“One of our aims is to connect people …

Exchange and collaboration are necessary

to achieve better understanding between

people,” he went on to say. “And from this

year, we started active collaboration with

Japanese local governments, to increase

awareness of inbound and outbound

travelers.”

As the evening wound to a close,

Weekender took a few minutes to

chat with Takao Kadekaru, the Senior

Executive Director of the Okinawa

Convention and Visitors Bureau,

to find out more about Okinawa’s

growing tourism industry and their

plans for the future.

HOW MANY TOURISTS VISIT OKINAWA

EACH YEAR?

For fiscal year 2015, our total number of tourists

reached 7.94 million, with 20 percent of these

being from abroad. This is a big increase, as just

five or six years ago, inbound tourism made up

only five percent of the total. For 2016, we are

hoping to have reached 8.4 million.

WHY DO YOU THINK OKINAWA

IS BECOMING SUCH A POPULAR

DESTINATION?

Not only do we have beautiful nature and the

ocean, but we also have a wonderful traditional

culture. Moreover, we have a subtropical

climate, which means the average temperature

is 23 degrees Celsius. A lot of tourists visit

during winter for a summer experience, or to

take advantage of our golf courses year round.

In Okinawa, you never need to wear a coat.

WHAT’S YOUR MAIN TOURISM GOAL FOR

THE FUTURE?

To become a top international resort.

FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS, WHICH OF

THE ISLANDS DO YOU RECOMMEND?

There are 160 islands in Okinawa, and only 40

of them are inhabited. Each one has its own

atmosphere, but if it’s your first time visiting,

I’d recommend Ishigaki, Miyakojima, and the

Kerama islands.

WHAT’S THE MAIN DIFFERENCE

BETWEEN OKINAWAN AND JAPANESE

PEOPLE?

We have a special kind of hospitality in

Okinawa. I also think that, because we have had

the chance to deal a lot with foreign countries,

tourists will find it easier to communicate with

Okinawan people than with Japanese people.

Come visit, you’ll see! [laughs]

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 19


[ PROMOTION ]

NAHA NIGHTS

Planning a visit to Okinawa? Here are five reasons to choose Loisir Hotel

& Spa Tower Naha as your luxurious base for rest and relaxation

Whether you’re heading to

the islands to discover

more about Okinawa’s

secrets to longevity, to

shop for local ceramics, or perhaps

even to take a karate lesson with Master

Masaaki Ikemiyagi (see page 18), you can

turn your break into a grand getaway by

booking a few nights at Loisir Hotel & Spa

Tower Naha, located just a seven-minute

drive from Naha Airport and overlooking

the bright blue ocean. Here are just some

of the hotel’s highlights…

Besides feeling like a mini paradise,

the spa is also a place for rejuvenation.

Inspired by Indian Ayurveda as well as

Ryukyu traditions, the treatments speak

to all five senses. Ayurveda is one of

the world’s oldest whole-body healing

systems, and helps to bring mind, body

and spirit into balance. CHURASPA

incorporates this science into its

treatments through the use of herbs,

essential oils, and massage techniques,

while also integrating local knowledge

of Okinawan herbs and treatments,

providing a holistic experience that will

appeal to those looking for more than

just your everyday beauty therapy.

CHURASPA IS AN AWARD-

WINNING HEALING OASIS

INSPIRED BY SMART AYURVEDA

In 2016, the hotel’s CHURASPA won a

coveted World Luxury Spa Award, which

is the pinnacle of achievement for luxury

spas worldwide. The award acknowledges

establishments that go above and beyond

the norms of customer service, which is

something CHURASPA prides itself on.

From the inviting, softly lit ambience to the

careful combination of treatments, every

detail is perfectly planned.

20 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


THE HOT SPRING

COMES FROM

FOSSIL SEA WATER

To round off your relaxation,

be sure to take a dip

in the hotel’s natural hot

spring, which boasts revitalizing

water sourced from

fossil sea water that gushes

out from 800 meters under

ground. This “gift from the

sea” is the only open-air,

free-flowing natural hot

spring in Naha, and its mineral

contents – which cause

the water to be salty – are

completely different from

the volcanic hot springs

found elsewhere in Japan.

As for its beauty benefits,

the salt clings to the skin

after bathing, preventing

evaporation of sweat for a

heat-retaining effect, moisturizing

the skin as a result.

YOU CAN DO ALL YOUR SHOPPING RIGHT HERE

If you’re pressed for time, or you simply don’t feel like breaking the mood of your perfect

hotel stay, you don’t have to go far to pick up a few essential souvenirs. Loisir Hotel & Spa

Tower Naha has its very own shopping plaza, open from 7am to 10pm, and featuring all

kinds of Okinawan goodies such as Ryukyu glass, folk craft items, shisa (Okinawan lions),

awamori liquor, and Ryukyu confectionery. There’s also plenty of fashion to browse, and a

convenience store for all those daily necessities – so there’s really no need to ever leave.

THE ROOMS HAVE

HAD A MAKEOVER

Last year, a selection of

suites at Loisir Hotel & Spa

Tower Naha were treated to

an upgrade, with the grand

unveiling being in July 2016.

All the rooms in the hotel

feature expansive views

either over the bay or city,

and a natural hot spring bath,

providing that extra dose

of luxury and relaxation.

And the Okinawan-flavored

décor – which includes

special touches such as

local Yachimun pottery and

Ryukyu grass – highlights the

tropical atmosphere. There

are plenty of different options

for all budgets, from the Spa

Deluxe Twin Bay View, which

includes a “bath with a view”

and a spacious balcony, to

the Japanese Room City View,

which gives you a touch of

modern Japanese-style décor.

THE CUISINE IS AS CREATIVE AS

IT IS DELICIOUS

With three restaurants and a top-floor bar to choose

from, you’re spoilt for choice. To enjoy Japanese,

Chinese and Okinawan cuisine with roots in Ryukyu

history, book a table at Ryukyu Dining HANAFU. This

restaurant gets its name from a traditional Ryukyu

folk dance staged at the historical Miegusuku landmark.

For all-day dining, there’s All Day Dining FON-

TAINE, which boasts a sunlit terrace; and for a casual

poolside barbecue go to Sunset Terrace PAPILLON.

Finally, end your evening off with a cocktail at Bar

Planete, where the glittering night-time scenery will

take your breath away.

CONTACT

Loisir Hotel & Spa Tower Naha, 3-2-1 Nishi,

Naha-shi, Okinawa | Tel: 098 868 2222

Web: www.solarehotels.com/en/hotel/okinawa/

loisir-naha/

www.solarehotels.com/en/hotel/okinawa/spatower/

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 21


Sheraton Okinawa Sunmarina Resort is currently expanding the

property with brand-new facilities and activities that are all

scheduled to be completed this spring.

The South Tower, which opened in December 2016, consists of

46 luxury rooms all with amazing ocean views, the ocean-front

restaurant “The Grill” and the “Sunset Bar & Terrace” – both of

which offer the best selection of food and drinks on the island –

and the “Ashibina” game room. Other facilities including a new

wellness center with an indoor pool, gym, Japanese bath and spa,

opened in January 2017 along with the “MegaZip” zipline and “Go

Fall” freefall activities. The project will be completed with the

opening of the ocean view chapel in March 2017.

Enjoy all that we have to offer and let us help make your stay

the best holiday ever!

DECEMBER 2016 OPEN / South Tower

DECEMBER 2016 OPEN / The Grill


Behind

Closed Doors

As everyone everywhere celebrates love this month, we chat with

Belgian photographer Zaza Bertrand about her new award-winning

photo series, Japanese Whispers, which reveals intimate moments

from inside Japan’s infamous love hotels

Words by Bunny Bissoux

24 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


Whether regarded as a seedy

remnant of bubble era

nightlife or a functional

convenience for couples

in need of privacy and discretion, love

hotels remain a profitable and necessary

part of the Japanese landscape. From

cheating lovers, or married couples

seeking solace from their compact

family homes, to lovestruck youths with

nowhere else to go, and overworked

businessmen forced to schedule their

amorous pursuits, the visitors to love

hotels come from all walks of life.

When the establishments first

appeared around the 1970s, they were

known for their eye-catching decor,

themed rooms and titillating playfulness.

In recent years, the gaudiness has been

toned down, with state-of-the-art facilities

and abundant amenities replacing

novelty value as the prime selling point.

This evolution is a combination of changing

tastes and wavering demands as well

as the consequence of increasingly complex

licensing restrictions. These hotels

stand brazenly in plain sight across the

country, and yet for many they remain

somewhat of a taboo.

Belgian photographer Zaza Bertrand’s

award-winning Japanese

Whispers photo series offers an unusual

glimpse behind the closed doors, documenting

the hotels and the people who

use them. Other photographers who’ve

focused on love hotels have tended to

concentrate their interest on the physical

spaces, the kitschy interiors, exoticizing

the unfamiliar, and presenting the

rooms as no more than quirky locations.

However, Bertrand’s pictures selectively

capture her own encounters, displaying

real slices of humanity with an atmospheric

poignancy conveyed in sometimes

cinematic composition.

Intimacy plays a prominent role in

all of Bertrand’s work, with her portfolio

I DIDN’T KNOW

WHAT TO EXPECT;

I DIDN’T CHOOSE

THE PEOPLE.

WHOEVER WANTED

TO PARTICIPATE,

I PHOTOGRAPHED

… I JUST WANTED

IT TO BE REAL

cementing an ongoing theme of interaction and human

contact. Having previously photographed young people

around Europe, Egypt and Panama, it was in 2011 that

she first visited Japan. “People were very open ... very

sexual and physical in Panama ... I wanted to go somewhere

that’s not the same,” she explains. Immediately

intrigued by the manners and social behavior of the

Japanese people, she soon became curious about the

industries dealing with an apparent disconnect between

natural desires and people’s ability to openly and honestly

express themselves. Love hotels, hostess bars, cuddle

cafés, crying therapy – Japan has conveniently created

alternative solutions to a multitude of modern day

problems, debatably at the expense of nurturing healthy

organic relationships.

Bertrand speaks fondly of Japan, inspired by the

perfection and attention to detail, which is so different

from her own easy-going European upbringing. She is

fascinated by what she perceives as organization and

control of basic human needs. “I found it interesting ...

[they] don’t always have a lot of time for basic emotions

in [their] life, so there’s been something created just for

that,” she says, voicing her thoughts on love hotels and

cuddle cafés. “That things like that can be organized, to

me that’s not so natural.”

The strangeness of the love hotel system, this

pre-planned arrangement of emotions and behavior,

is manifested in a kind of tension; one you can surely

experience firsthand should you ever find yourself

inside such an establishment, and one that intrigued the

photographer and is apparent in her images. “You get

this pressure when you enter the hotel, you can sense it

in the air, people go there for one purpose ... everything

is kind of fake. Sometimes when you make love, it just

happens and you don’t need to plan it, but here it’s all

so specific and predetermined.”

The photographs were taken during two trips to

Japan, in 2014 and 2016, before and after the birth of

her son. She first stayed in Fukuoka and later in Tokyo,

employing the help of friends to try and negotiate

subjects who would be comfortable being photographed.

They initially approached couples directly at the hotel

entrances, offering to pay for the price of the room, but

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 25


after this proved largely unsuccessful they resorted to advertising

online. “I didn’t know what to expect; I didn't choose

the people. Whoever wanted to participate, I photographed;

gay people, pretty people, ugly people, it didn’t matter, I just

wanted it to be real ... not a fictional story.”

Where Bertrand’s previous projects have all included

a sense of communal living, depicting lives messily intertwined

and connected to their surroundings, Japanese

Whispers is unique in its remoteness. The scenes are sparse

and detached. The shots featuring models drag the viewer’s

gaze to focus on the subjects, allowing us to enter this private

space with them. That previously mentioned tension is what

ultimately contributes to the mystique of the love hotel;

whether your overarching view is positive or negative, that

tensity can be read as anything from unsettling anxiety to

bubbling anticipation. Even for a “normal,” steady couple,

the time limit and designated location would make an event

out of something that generally happens more spontaneously.

Whether or not that sounds appealing is down to the

individual. There is a general misconception that love hotels

perpetuate a separation of love and sex, but to generalize

that there is no love inside the hotels is as misguided as to

believe love and sex only exist in one definable combination.

The reality of shooting such intimate scenes could easily

become awkward or embarrassing for the parties involved,

but it was more the unfamiliar way of working that Bertrand

found challenging. For her previous projects, Bertrand spent

long periods of time together with her subjects, getting close to

them until she completely blended in. This uninhibited access

allowed her to capture something candid and personal, as

she states: “After a while people forget I'm there. I can’t really

explain how I do it, but I become invisible, and then I take

photographs.” Inspired by the work of iconic French photographer

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bertrand is used to waiting for the

perfect moment to appear, with scenes changing as multiple

aspects come together all at once. In contrast, the shoots at the

love hotels were all pre-arranged: “They were appointments

and only one hour each, so a very different way of working;

I wasn't invisible, I was very present in the room.” Some

people shyly waited for her orders, expecting her to direct

them, for others the thrill of exhibitionism perhaps altered

26 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


SOMETIMES WHEN YOU

MAKE LOVE, IT JUST

HAPPENS AND YOU DON’T

NEED TO PLAN IT, BUT HERE

IT’S ALL SO SPECIFIC AND

PREDETERMINED

their actions or mannerisms, but Bertrand aimed

to capture something as unaffected as possible. She

didn’t choose the people or their clothes or even the

specific hotels – the models had complete autonomy

and thus the series should be considered on the

spectrum of documentary photography, without

any journalistic intention. “It was more like creating

an image, in time and space, of the people who

would pay money to go and make love.”

The necessity to be so concentrated on the

scene in front of her was a big experience for the

photographer who describes some of the process

as seeming “like a movie,” the final pictures having

a filmic quality enhanced by the low lighting and

mood. “I was out of my comfort zone and I really

enjoyed it. It’s like a new door that opened for me.”

BUY THE BOOK

Japanese Whispers by Zaza Bertrand

is published by Art Paper Editions

and available for €30.00 (¥3,625) from

www.artpapereditions.org (worldwide

shipping offered). For more

information about and work by the

photographer, visit zazabertrand.com

In addition to exploring this new way of working

in her future projects, Bertrand hopes to have the

opportunity to show her recent series to a Japanese

audience through an exhibition. She’s curious about

the reaction she might receive, wondering if people

will be shocked, or even interested. Undoubtedly,

few people would resist the chance to peek inside

such a provocative private world, but moreover, art

often brings a chance for people to see everyday

details and events presented as something extraordinary

or profound. For those who have grown up

alongside these places as part of the mundane, or for

foreigners who perhaps have only a fleeting interest

in the subject, Japanese Whispers provides rare

glimpses of both tender intimacy and cold isolation

which, in any society, are so often overlooked.

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 27


JAPAN’S

FORGOTTEN

ONES

Last year’s Sagamihara massacre was Japan’s deadliest mass killing

since World War II, and it put the country’s bias against people with

disabilities in the spotlight. Matthew Hernon looks at the reasons behind

the discrimination, and what’s being done to help change attitudes

Nameless and faceless: That’s how the

victims of the Sagamihara massacre will

forever remain in the eyes of the public.

The abhorrent act, which ended the lives

of 19 residents at the Tsukui Yamahiro En (Tsukui

Lily Garden) care facility for people with intellectual

disabilities was committed by 26-year-old ableist

Satoshi Uematsu. A former employee at the center,

he'd previously written about killing hundreds of

disabled people “for the sake of Japan and world

peace,” in a letter given to the speaker of the Diet's

lower house.

Inspired by Nazi eugenics, the multiplemurderer

has been given the media platform he

seems to crave, yet very little information – only

that there were 10 women and nine men, aged

between 19 and 80 – has been conveyed about those

he killed. The Kanagawa police decided against

giving more details to protect the families who may

be worried about discrimination. The decision has

28 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


intensified the debate in Japan concerning

attitudes towards physically and

cognitively impaired persons.

“Not showing their names and faces is

basically like denying them their humanity,”

says author Suzanne Kamata, whose

daughter Lilia has cerebral palsy and

is profoundly deaf. “Following terrorist

attacks in Nice and Orlando I remember

reading a lot about what the victims

were like and what they enjoyed doing.

Obviously, we couldn't do that after the

Sagamihara incident, which I felt was

wrong. Also, it didn’t receive the same

kind of attention as other tragedies. There

were no hashtags on Twitter or things

like that. As a news story, it seemed to die

down quite quickly.”

Kamata's views are shared by many,

including New York–based filmmaker

Kazuhiro Soda, who in 2007 directed the

critically acclaimed documentary Seishin

(Mental) about an outpatient mental

health clinic in Okayama. “Of course, the

will of victims’ family members should

be respected,” Soda tells us. “However,

from what I understand in the case of

Sagamihara it was the police that decided

not to publicize the names of those killed

because of their disabilities. I find that

disturbing and discriminative. I imagine

some of the families wanted to talk openly

about the deceased. Without their stories

the victims remain faceless, making it

harder for the public to feel sympathy

towards them.

“There are so many people suffering

from mental disorders, but because of the

shame attached they choose not to discuss

their problems. They are illnesses that

could affect anyone. I realized this while

working in Tokyo for two months when

I was screamed at by producers and regularly

had to stay at the office overnight.

The working conditions here are stressful

enough to make the most laid-back person

snap, and that was one of the reasons

I wanted to make Seishin. I was strict

about not blurring out the patients’ faces

as is the case with most documentaries.

In order to have an open discussion, they

should be visible.”

Slightly encouraged by the progress

that’s being made, Soda believes mental

illness is becoming less of a taboo

in Japan. This is partly down to several

government initiatives including various

educational programs on the topic. Furthermore,

in April 2016 a new law was enacted

aimed at eliminating discrimination

against individuals with either physical

or cognitive disabilities. Whilst a little

vague regarding what constitutes discrimination,

the legislation, which will be

reviewed in three years, was unquestionably

a step in the right direction. So was

the amendment of the Act on Employment

Promotion of Persons with Disabilities

back in 2013, which raised the legal employment

quota for people with disabilities

from 1.8% to 2.0%. While many

companies still fall below that number,

the employment rate of individuals with

disabilities has continued to grow year

by year over the past decade.

One organization certainly playing

its part is Pasona Heartful. A special

exemption company of the Pasona Group,

it's engaged not only in the outsourcing of

office operations for people with disabilities,

but also the development of agriculture

and other new areas of employment.

“Our approach is to take each person

on their own merit,” says Pasona

Heartful director Tadamichi Shiroiwa.

“We're an HR firm so our focus is always

on a candidate's strengths and skills, not

their handicap. For too long in Japan,

people with disabilities have been segregated.

The situation has improved over

the past 20 years, but it feels like a slow

process. I still think we're behind other

countries in terms of equal employment

POLITICIAN SEIKO

NODA WAS TOLD

SHE SHOULD LEAVE

HER SON TO DIE

opportunities and barrier-free access.

The government needs to enforce more

stringent architectural policies ensuring

that buildings have better accessibility

for everyone.”

Suzanne Kamata concurs. She feels

attitudes towards people with disabilities

in Japan have shifted in recent times;

however, regarding infrastructure she

believes there’s still a long way to go. The

American-born writer explores topics

like accessibility and human relations in

her new book A Girls' Guide to the Islands

in which she travels around the Seto

Inland Sea with her daughter. It's a trip

she probably wouldn't have envisioned

making 10 to 15 years ago.

“When Lilia was young, my motherin-law

told me not to let her play outside

on her own because she was worried what

the neighbors would think,” says Kamata.

“I heard there were three children nearby

with disabilities, but I never really saw

any. The attitude back then seemed to be

‘let’s hide them away.’ Thankfully that’s

changed and you’re now seeing more kids

in wheelchairs and so on out and about.

Unfortunately, there are still many shops

and restaurants, including new ones, that

are inaccessible. This contrasts sharply

with America where even old mom and pop

stores have ramps.”

Josh Grisdale, who has cerebral palsy

and is the founder of the Accessible Japan

website (www.accessible-japan.com),

points out renovations to public buildings

don't just benefit those who are physically

challenged, “but everyone.” The 36 year

old, who moved to Tokyo 10 years ago

from Canada and recently became a Japanese

citizen, is pleased with the progress

that’s being made and is confident that

significant steps are being taken towards

making Japan a barrier-free country.

“I feel freer here than I did in Canada

where I lived in a rural area and always

had to rely on someone for a ride whenever

I wanted to go anywhere,” he tells

Weekender. “In Tokyo, the vast majority

of public transportation is now wheelchair

accessible so I can be more spontaneous.

The toilets are also great and very

easy to use. There’s even an app to find

them: ‘Check a Toilet.'

“Sometimes people follow the rules

too closely here, but in general I feel it’s

a great place for people with disabilities

to visit. I remember the first time I came.

There were all kinds of questions swirling

around my head. Was the hotel going to be

OK? Would I be able to use the train? The

feeling of uncertainty was accentuated by

the lack of information. After moving here

permanently and learning the language, I

realized there was lots of it available – it

just wasn’t in English! That’s why I decided

to create Accessible Japan.”

As well as providing tips, the website

also features various articles including

some related to the Sagamihara massacre,

an incident which Grisdale found difficult

to comprehend. “I’ve faced various forms

of discrimination during my life, but

never imagined someone hating people

because of their disabilities,” he says.

Yet, Satoshi Uematsu is not completely

alone in his perverse way of thinking.

Ableism does exist and is exacerbated by

public figures such as Australian philosopher

Peter Singer, who advocates killing

disabled babies via infanticide. In Japan,

LDP politician Seiko Noda, whose child

was born severely handicapped, has been

subjected to online abuse including one

person who told her that she should leave

her son to die as he “uses up so much

government money for medical care.”

“Rather than spouting these opinions, I

wish those individuals could observe people

like my daughter,” says Kamata. “Then

maybe they’d realize they’re more than

just their disability. Awareness is growing

and attitudes are changing, however, I fear

that discrimination will always be there.”

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 29


SURFING

THE SNOW

Snowsurfing is enjoying a global revival, and Fukushima’s

powdery backcountry is the perfect place to try it

Words by Phil Luza

Before the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, Fukushima

was one of Japan’s best-kept surfing

secrets. The long, jagged Pacific coastline offered

a variety of breaks, and caught swell

throughout the year. Since many coastal

areas are now irreparably changed and some remain

off limits, the best remaining surf spots in Fukushima

are now on its snow-covered mountains.

Snowsurfing is the art of riding snow like a wave.

Its roots can be traced to the origins of snowboarding,

with early snowboards, like the Snurfer, being modeled

after surfboards. As board design and technology

advanced, the emphasis of mainstream snowboarding

evolved from carves to airs and skate-style tricks, and

the popularity of snowsurfing faded on the global

scene. Nevertheless, the underground snowsurf

movement has remained a force with carving purists,

and has begun to regain popularity in the resorts and

backcountry mountains of the world.

The feeling of riding a mountain of powder snow

is much like the feeling of surfing an endless flowing

wave, and Japan’s near endless supply of powder

perfectly suits snowsurfing. My first experience of

snowsurfing began with an early morning departure

from Tokyo to the mountains of Fukushima Prefecture,

which is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the

Japanese Alps. Our destination was Hinoemata, a

small village tucked away in the mountainous Aizu

region, located close to Oze. Fukushima doesn’t have

the international acclaim enjoyed by Hakuba or Niseko,

and Hinoemata doesn’t have the towering peaks of

neighboring Niigata and Gunma, but this makes it all

the more interesting. It’s like a secret surf spot hidden

within a city. It will never be famous, but it will also

never be crowded.

After a long drive we arrived at the parking

lot near the base of the mountain where we met

our guide Takayuki Hirano, and spotted the mini

snowcat we would ride to access the backcountry. As

if on cue, the snow that had been falling all morning

began to clear up as we loaded our gear onto the side

of the snowcat and crammed ourselves inside. The

warm interior and quiet grins of everyone reminded

30 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


Photo by Phil Luza

me of an Indonesian boat ride I once

took to one of the hundreds of breaks

at that surf mecca. We felt a shared

mix of nervousness and excitement as

we gazed out the windows to witness

the warm rays of sunshine piercing

through the cold morning.

Dozing off in the warm cabin, I

awoke 30 minutes later as we arrived

at the lodge. In front were two snowmobiles

with large rubber boats – like

the ones used for white water rafting

– tied behind them. Inside was a small

repair shop and a wall lined with

colorful boards that looked more like

surfboards than snowboards. These

funky boards were all made by Moss,

the world’s oldest snowsurfing brand.

More than 40 years ago, Moss founder

Shinzo Tanuma had a dream to surf on

snow. In 1971, he created the first Moss

Snowstick prototype, which was made

from urethane foam and fiberglass,

much like a traditional surfboard. He

test-rode the prototype at the Akakura

Onsen ski resort in Niigata, and started

a revolution.

The original Moss Snowsticks have

been refined, with designs varying

over the last four decades. The mix

of tail shapes, board length, and nose

width differs to match the rider’s desire

to draw big lines and deep carves.

I was quickly drawn to the Moss Quadstick

model. The fat nose and swallow

tail are similar in design to my favorite

type of surfboard, and my mind raced

with the possibilities. After swapping

out my bindings I loaded the board

into the rubber rafts with the rest of

our group. As we made our way to the

top of the mountain, the sun lit up the

slopes, and the quiver of colorful Moss

boards sticking out of the side of the

boats struck a bright contrast against

the pristine white snow.

The snowmobile and rafts followed

a narrow, snow-covered, closed

road that snaked up to the top of the

IT FELT LIKE I

WAS SURFING

A PERFECT

MEXICAN POINT

BREAK THAT

NEVER ENDS

From Top To Bottom

Snowsurf Design boards by Taro Tamai: Super

Fish Outline Core, Hornet, and Rocket Fish

mountain. The recent snow storm

had completely blanketed the area

in nearly a meter of fresh pow. The

occasional street sign or steel rockslide

barriers were the only clues that this

road – which gives way to open valleys

and powder-covered trees – was ever

in use. After a few minutes Takayuki

stopped the snowmobiles and attached

water-ski tow ropes to the boats. For

the remainder of the ride up we took

turns towing behind the snowmobiles,

carving off the snowbanks lining the

side of the road like wakeboarders

behind a boat.

Once at the top we unloaded

our boards and gear from the boats

and strapped in. The silence of the

mountain was only broken by gentle

laughter. Underneath the facemasks

and scarves of the other riders there

were big smiles as we glimpsed the

sun glistening off the fresh powder.

Everyone peered over the side of the

road into the valley and mind-surfed

the untouched terrain.

Lining up along the ridge line we

peered over the edge. The etiquette for

this trip is to drop in one by one to let

each person enjoy their run. I watched

as a rider shouted “Ittekimasu” and

slid into the fresh powder between the

trees, leaving an arch of spray after

each turn. Anxiously I watched, knowing

I was next. After a few minutes I

dropped off onto the run. The wide

nose on my Moss Snowstick sank into

the soft powder, then rose up to plane

as I gained speed. I was floating over

an ocean of snow and flowing effortlessly

between the trees. The endless

wave of powder made me feel like I

was surfing a perfect Mexican point

break that never ends, and rekindled

the stoke that only a surfer knows.

When I joined up with the rest of

the group, the vibe was as if everyone

had just caught the wave of their life.

The mix of perfect conditions and

equipment left an overwhelming feeling

of accomplishment earned from

taking the time to seek out a new place

and try something different. When we

eventually returned on the snowcat

to the parking lot, we were exhausted

but still smiling. To end things off, we

took a short drive to the local onsen,

where we soaked our tired bodies and

swapped stories of our perfect day.

USEFUL CONTACTS

Hinoemata: www.oze-info.jp

Tour info: raku-hinoemata.com

Moss Snowboards:

www.pioneermoss.com

Onsen:

www.oze-info.jp/spot/komanoyu

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 31


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Yukari Araki, Mixed media2016, Courtesy of AIN SOPH DISPATCH

ART, COMEDY, AND A GOOD EDUCATION

Whether you are in the mood for abstract art from the 19th century, need a good laugh,

or want to keep up to date on the latest Tokyo school news, we've got it all right here.

34 GALLERY GUIDE 36 AGENDA

38 EDUCATION

TOKYO WEEKENDER | | FEBRUARY DECEMBER 2017 2016 | | 33


ART & COMEDY

ORSAY NABIS

A partnership with the Musée d'Orsay brings the works of late 19th century Post-Impressionist, avant-garde collective Les Nabis to

Tokyo. Meeting at Académie Julian, the group of artists paved the way for 20th century abstract and nonrepresentational art. Breakouts

of the group included Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis, although more than 20 artists made up the collective.

Works by influencers, such as Paul Gauguin, will also be displayed. Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum Until May 21 mimt.jp/nabis

Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait with “The Yellow Christ,” 1889–90, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

THE ART WORLD

OUR PICK OF THE CITY’S BEST EXHIBITIONS

Compiled by Luca Eandi

MATISSE ET ROUAULT

Henri Matisse, Still Life, 1896

Painters Henri Matisse and Georges Rouault met at

art school, when they both attended the École des

Beaux-Arts. This exhibition displays correspondence

between the two spanning 50 years, and the

artwork that accompanied it. Although stylistically

different, it is apparent from the letters how they

influenced each other over time. Important early

works by Matisse will be displayed, such as The

Bottle of Schiedam, as well as Rouault's oil-color

plates for "Divertissement." Shiodome Museum

Until March 26 panasonic.co.jp/es/museum

34 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


Tiziano, ca.1515, Oil on canvas, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence © Gabinetto Fotografico del Polo Museale Regionali della Toscana

C

COMEDY

Three comedy nights to keep you

laughing all month long

JIMMY CARR

One of the most prolific

joke-tellers of recent

times, Jimmy Carr embarked

on a mammoth

world tour earlier this

year that features a

selection of his very

best jokes along with

brand new material.

His deadpan delivery

coupled with plenty of dark humor has made him a

perfect host for several of Britain’s top panel shows,

and Carr brings equal amounts of charm and edge

to his stand-up. February 27, Yamano Hall

Gabriella Mangano & Silvana Mangano “There is no there,”

2015 / Single-channel video / Collection of the artist /

Courtesy of Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

TITIAN AND THE RENAISSANCE IN VENICE

When it comes to Venetian Renaissance art, one prolific painter perhaps embodies

it more than others – Tiziano Vecellio, also known as Titian. The 15th/16th

century painter worked steadily on commissions from monarchs and popes alike

throughout his fruitful life. His brilliant colors, free and vibrant brushwork and use

of softly diffused light became a calling card and influenced generations to come.

On top of dozens of Titian's works, this exhibition includes influential works by

Bellini and Vivarini, as well as later Venetian works by Veronese and others. Tokyo

Metropolitan Art Museum Until April 2 titian2017.jp/english

YEBISU INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL FOR ART &

ALTERNATIVE VISIONS 2017

Better known as Yebizo, this renowned festival will take place at the renovated

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum in Ebisu. The theme for this year’s festival is

“Multiple Future” and the art promises to explore this concept by employing duplicative

techniques and marrying variant elements. Participants for 2017 include

artist Yasuko Toyoshima, videographer Fiona Tan, American filmmaker Nancy

Kates, and Academy Award–winning Polish director Zbigniew Rybczyński.

Tokyo Photographic Arts Museum Until February 26 www.yebizo.com

EDDIE IZZARD

In bringing his latest

stand-up show, “Force

Majeure,” to Tokyo

for the first time ever,

Eddie Izzard is closing

in on having toured

30 different countries.

This extensive tour is

no match for Izzard’s

energetic stream-ofconsciousness

style of comedy, which often leads

him to speak in multiple languages, even ones he

claims not to know. Equally at home on stage and on

screen, Izzard is a master storyteller and a fearless

entertainer. February 25, Tokyo Comedy Store

PERFECT

LIARS CLUB

Perfect Liars Club is a

comedy storytelling/

interrogation show that

started in Washington

DC in 2013. The point

of the game is to spot

the liar. For the first

part of the show, four

people tell funny stories,

three are real, one is not. In the second part, the

audience asks questions of the performers, looking

for holes in their stories. In the last segment, the audience

votes on who’s lying and sees if they’re right.

All in all, a fun way to spend an evening and sharpen

your wits. February 9, Good Heaven’s Bar

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 35


1

3

Yusuke Tsuchida, courtesy ART in PARK HOTEL TOKYO 2016, JILL D’ART GALLERY

2

4

6

7

8

5

AGENDA: THE WEEKENDER ROUNDUP OF WHAT’S HAPPENING IN FEBRUARY

1

FEB 11-12

2

FEB 11-24

3

FEB 19-20

4

FEB 25-26

ART IN PARK HOTEL

TOKYO 2017

This art fair includes works from

ANDREI TARKOVSKY

PROGRAMME

Get an education on the Russian

NITRO CIRCUS 10TH

ANNIVERSARY WORLD TOUR

Motorcycles, BMX bikes and

HOSTESS CLUB

WEEKENDER 2017

This two-day indie rock festival is

Japan, Taiwan and South Korea,

using hotel rooms as the exhibition

space. Bring Weekender's Jan or Feb

2017 mag and get ¥200 off.

Where: Park Hotel Tokyo

How much: ¥1,500

More info: www.aipht.artosaka.jp/en

filmmaker during this retrospective,

and perhaps see some of his films for

the first time on the big screen.

Where: K’s Cinema

How much: ¥1,000-¥1,800

More info: www.pan-dora.co.jp

skateboards will fly through the

air at great speeds, defying all that

you thought you knew about the

constraints of gravity.

Where: Tokyo Dome

How much: ¥7,000-¥25,000

More info: www.nitro-circus.jp

headlined by Pixies and The Kills,

and also features post-rock band

Mono, Little Barrie, Girl Band, The

Lemon Twigs and more.

Where: Studio Coast

How much: ¥8,500-¥13,900

More info: ynos.tv/hostessclub

FEB 25

TOKYO MARATHON

FRIENDSHIP RUN 2017

Happening on the day before the

main event, this Tokyo Marathon

fun run is organized especially for

foreigners.

Where: Symbol Promenade Park

How much: ¥3,000

More info: tokyoweekender.com

6 FEB 2-5

SALON DU CHOCOLAT

Around 100 chocolatiers from 17

countries bring their best products

just in time to get your sweetheart

something cocoa-tastic for

Valentine’s Day.

Where: Tokyo International Forum

How much: Free

More info: tokyoweekender.com

5 7

FEB 11

CHINESE PAPER LANTERN

CEREMONY

Yokohama Chinatown is chock-full of

events and celebrations for Chinese

New Year’s, including this traditional

paper lantern lighting ceremony.

Where: Yokohama Chinatown

How much: Free

More info: www.chinatown.or.jp

8 FEB 1-28

GENTARO ISHIZUKA:

DEMARCATION

This Tokyo-based photographer

traveled to document oil pipelines

within four different countries across

the globe.

Where: Gallery 916

How much: ¥800

More info: www.gallery916.com

36 36 | | FEBRUARY 2017 | | TOKYO WEEKENDER


11

9

10

12

9

FEB 2-28 10 FEB 1-19

FLOWERS BY NAKED

Renowned projection mapping

and lighting installation

collective Naked is back

to encore an exciting show

that's designed to stimulate

all your senses.

Where: Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall

How much: ¥1,400

More info: flowersbynaked.com

“UNTITLED RECORDS”

VOL. 10

Nagano-born photographer

Keizo Kitajima returns with

the 10th edition of this exhibition

series chronicling his travels

around Japan.

Where: Photographers’ Gallery

How much: Free

More info: pg-web.net

FEB 3-12

YOKOHAMA STRAWBERRY

FESTIVAL 2017

Ever since coming on the scene in

2013, the Yokohama Strawberry

Festival has become one of the

more welcome additions to an

already busy festival season.

Where: Yokohama Akarenga

How much: Free

11 12 FEB 1-14

More info: www.yokohama-akarenga.jp

WHITE SACAS ICE

SKATING RINK

In addition to the ice rink, be sure

not to miss the nearby Akasaka

Biz Tower illuminations to get

the full romantic experience for

Valentine’s Day.

Where: Akasaka Sacas

How much: ¥500-¥1,200

More info: sacas.net

TOKYO WEEKENDER | | FEBRUARY 2017 | | 37 37


Situated at the very heart of the city, BST has steadily built an enviable

world-wide reputation over more than quarter of a century. Here’s a

glance at five of their recent achievements and accreditations

BST is an accredited member of

the Council of British International

Schools and one of only a

small number of schools worldwide

to have been independently

inspected according to the UK

standards for British Schools

Overseas, and judged to be excellent

in every category. We regard

this as yet another very welcome

endorsement of the high standards

we set for ourselves.

Young people today increasingly

see themselves as global

citizens and, while many of

our graduates seek to continue

their education in the UK, there

is growing interest in both the

USA and Japan, and a number

of current students are looking

towards Australia and mainland

Europe. Most universities worldwide

are familiar with Britain’s

public examination system and

are keen to accept students with

good A level qualifications. In

fact, the specialist nature of these

two-year courses means that

students with better grades can

expect to earn significant credit

– sometimes up to a whole year’s

worth of study. At Harvard, for

example, you will need to have at

least three A/B grades to matriculate

(earn a place) but three A*/A

grades will merit a full year’s

academic credit; Boston College

will offer two courses of credit

for A/B grades, while C grades

will earn one semester’s credit,

and Princeton clearly states on its

website that A/B grades will earn

Advanced Placement credit. It is

a similar story across the world.

BST is, of course, much more

than an A Level school. All

examinations are important, and

many parents are impressed by

the rigour and structured progression

of our particular brand

of British education from the age

of three through to 18. That said,

students here know that education

is not simply about passing

exams. Sport, music and drama

are woven into the fabric of

school life, and we see both community

service and adventurous

activity as real strengths. From

their early years in our Nursery

and Reception classes, children

are given countless opportunities

to develop the independence and

resilience that will enable them

to take the next step in their

education – wherever it might

take them, with confidence – and

a smile.

In January, the school’s good

name was further enhanced

when the Chair of the Board

of Trustees, Mrs Marianne

Black, was awarded an MBE for

services to international education

in the latest New Year’s

Honours list. This prestigious

award, one of just 76 granted to

recipients overseas, recognises

the advances made by BST under

Mrs Black’s guidance during the

past five years and offers affirmation

of the school’s central

importance to both the British

and the broader international

community here in Tokyo.

This year, for the first time in

its history, BST is home to well

over 1,000 students. There are

many reasons to explain the

remarkable surge in student

enrolment at BST in recent years

but foremost among them is the

widespread recognition that this

is a school where young people of

all abilities from the most diverse

backgrounds can find their niche

and fulfil their potential. Since

2012 we have seen the number of

15- to 18-year-old students on our

IGCSE and A Level courses more

than double to almost 250; examination

results have progressed to

the point where they match the

gold standard set by the United

Kingdom independent sector and

our graduates are winning places

at some of the most prestigious

universities around the world.

38 | FEBRUARY 2017 |


Creating

Global Leaders

How Aoba-Japan International School (A-JIS) is introducing

unique methods to help build communities and prepare

children for success and happiness in an unknown future

As the world moves towards an

increasingly uncertain future,

helping learners become

empowered problem solvers

and innovators is essential. To that end,

Aoba-Japan International School (A-JIS),

is paving the way for a unique approach to

education. We chat with the school’s Secondary

Principal, Robert Thorn, and the Director

of Aoba-Japan Extension (AJE), Greg

Culos, who is responsible for community

and external programs, to find out more.

HOW DID AOBA’S DIFFERENT

APPROACH TO EDUCATION EVOLVE?

Robert: Many schools have mission statements

with big ideas, such as making an

impact on the world one day. We said, “Why

can’t we do that now?” We began to ask

ourselves, and the kids: “What is the point

of education?” The kids came up with things

like, “It’s to prepare us for success and happiness

in an unknown future.”

THAT’S INSIGHTFUL COMING FROM

SCHOOLKIDS…

Robert: Exactly. We took time to reflect

together on that. We then looked at how a

school and an education system can do this;

how does a learner go into an unknown

future and come out happy and successful?

To this end, we have learners

examine positive and negative

aspects of school. They look at the

relationship between teachers

and learners and, through

discussion and exploration,

propose how positive change

can be made. They begin to

see how to make changes in

their communities.

Greg: AJE was designed

with the notion that we create

opportunities for our

kids to become inspired to

learn about, in particular,

things that inspire them.

It’s a simple notion, but

it breeds relevancy.

Consequently, we strive to

ensure that AJE programs

are experiential first.

WE CREATE

OPPORTUNITIES FOR

LEARNERS TO BE SOCIAL

ENTREPRENEURS

IN THEIR LIVES

Robert: We give more time to the topic of

global leadership than we do to the traditionally

important subjects, with the notion

that better holistic learners will learn content

knowledge better, and apply it better.

SO GLOBAL LEADERSHIP IS PART OF

THE CURRICULUM?

Robert: Yes, teachers challenge learners

about certain topics, and set up opportunities

for them to practice leadership and

coaching skills. The idea is to nurture

critical approaches to understanding

expected norms and behaviors, and to

generate learner-led forums and actions in

which they can present, test, question, and

perhaps modify notions regarding “global

leadership”: What is entrepreneurial spirit?

What defines a happy family life? What

is success? What am I doing now to bring

positive change to our community?

Greg: We may provide controlled situations

that can lead to conflict in life, and then

problem-solve those issues with others in a

responsible way. So, they become attuned

to the roots of what causes problems in life

and how those instances may be managed.

Robert: In many schools you get teachers

who love the subject they teach, but half

the kids they teach think of it as a waste of

time. Wouldn’t it be better if young people

understand that they’re going into any

classroom to become better learners and

leaders – and that this outcome is possible

even within the context of any subject?

HOW DO YOU EMPOWER THE

TEACHERS?

Robert: A good example is a course our

teachers took with Professor Philippe

Rosinski, who developed a system called

Global Coaching. His approach leads to a

more rounded coach. That said, we also

realized that, as teachers, we’re only just

learning these skills, so we thought, let’s go

on a journey with the kids. In this way, we

are helping to build our community and

relations between educators and learners

that empower both to develop the other.

HOW ELSE ARE YOU HELPING TO

BUILD COMMUNITY?

Robert: To be social entrepreneurs, you first

have to understand your impact on society. So

we’re collaborating with local schools. One of

the events we’re trying to organize is getting

teenagers and retired people to come

together to make things – anything from

conversation to calligraphy.

Greg: Families in Japan reach out

to international schools to provide

their children with learning

paths that are otherwise not

available to them: creativity,

independence, and critical

thinking being among those.

Both our mainstream and

AJE programs offer these

experiences. We also host

more and more international

students seeking

the same opportunities

to discover the world in

different ways. As a result,

all participants can experience

authentic instances of

socio-cultural difference.

More info at www.japaninternationalschool.com

40 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


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TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 41


People,

Parties, Places

TOKYO’S LONGEST RUNNING SOCIETY PAGE WITH BILL HERSEY

Bill Hersey and the age-defying

Mick Jagger, circa 1988

In addition to having a lot of friends from all over the world

visiting Tokyo over the Christmas-New Year's holidays, I

met a lot of interesting people for the first time. This added

up to spending a lot of time meeting and talking with people

from all walks of life in a half a dozen or so of the city’s

many fine restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. Our groups were

always very international and we talked about everything from terrorism

to (ugh!) Trump.

One conversation with a group of young Italian businessmen

working here regarding the perils of Roppongi really surprised me.

One of them told me he and a few friends were lured to a well-known

Roppongi club by a couple of touts who work the streets around the

Roi Building. They didn’t really like the club’s ambiance, so they decided

to have one drink and move on. But somehow someone had

spiked their drinks and two of them woke up in a small dark street

several hours later. One was missing his watch and wallet and the

other just his wallet. They reported this and spent considerable time

filling out a police report. It’s been a couple of weeks and they haven’t

gotten anything back yet. I respect the police here, but it’s not

easy. The Roppongi scumbags who are into spiking drinks, pickpocketing,

and the like really know what they’re doing.

I know Tokyo’s one of the safest cities in the world, but it seems

like no matter where you travel nowadays, you should be careful.

I'd also like to warn you about using drugs here. Most, including

marijuana, are illegal and penalties are tough. I’m sure you can find

people selling drugs, but don’t take a chance. No one needs that kind

of trouble here.

Joined friends from the Big Apple at a first-class holiday lunch

at the Grand Hyatt’s Oak Door. My fish and chips were excellent

and not all that expensive. My four friends who arrived a little late

were loaded down with Christmas décor bags from a half a dozen

Roppongi Hills bags and boxes. “Gifts for friends back home,” they

told me, adding “Tokyo is really a marketing dream.” I suppose

when you consider that about 1% of Japan’s 127 million people are

big shoppers, this is true. If you visit the Shibuya and Roppongi Don

Quixotes, they’re almost always super busy with Chinese and Southeast

Asian tourists with big bags, boxes and even suitcases full of all

kinds of things they bought to take back home.

Even though there are only a small number of Christians in Japan,

thanks to marketing and promotions Tokyo was beautifully decorated

for holidays and sales of gifts were up. An increase in tourism

has helped. Let’s hope it keeps getting better all the time. In closing

this part of the column, my apologies to our Chinese friends for this

late, but truly sincere congratulations on their New Year which was

on January 28.

ALGERIAN NATIONAL DAY RECEPTIONS

Algerian Ambassador Mohammed Bencherif and his wife Amira

hosted their National Day Reception in their beautiful Arabic designed

Embassy/Residence in Minato-ku. Guests were a wall-to-wall

42 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


HAPPY BIRTHDAY

SHIGA AT TSUKIJI

JISAKU

1. Brazilian car racer J.P.

Oliveira and his wife Haruka

2. Shiga’s mom Reiko, his

son Christophe, the birthday

guy Tsukasa Shiga, his

wife Anna, their daughter

Anastasia, and Anastasia’s

friends Diria and Roman

3. Top Apple executive Kaoru

Washitaki, his wife Hinatsu

1 2

3 4

6

7

8

9

10

11

ALGERIAN 62ND

NATIONAL DAY

4. The hosting couple, Algerian

Ambassador Mohamed Bencherif, his

wife Amira

5. Gospel singer Alex Easley, photographer

Benjamin Lee

6. Toshio and Fumiko Motoya, the

couple behind all the APA Hotels you

see everywhere

7. Egyptian Ambassador Ismail

Khairat, Kuwait Ambassador

Abdul-Rahman Al-Otaibi

8. Algerian Ambassador Bencherif,

German Ambassador Hans Carl

Freiherr Von Werthern

9. Bill and Japan Football Association

head coach Vahid Halilhodzic

10. Gaimusho’s Deputy Director General

Middle East and Africa Affairs

Bureau, Katsuhiko Takahashi, his

wife Mami, and Amira Bencherif

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 43


WINE NIGHT

AT MIDTOWN

OAKWOOD

1. Nandan Mer, Alok Rakyan,

Ikuko Yasutomi, Paul

Mortensen, Chiyuki Shimamoto

2. Todai University’s Phil

Stilwell, Saguri Ishida

1 2

5

3 4

8

7

6

9

10

11

OMAN’S GLITTERING

NATIONAL DAY

RECEPTION

3. The hosting couple Oman Ambassador

Khalid Al-Muslahi, his dynamic

wife Aisha Abeer 4. Kuwaiti Ambassador

Abdul-Rahman Al-Otaibi, his

wife Jamilah 5. Indian Association of

Japan President Dr. Sanjay Mehrotra,

popular politician Kazuyuki Hamada

6. Min-On Concert Association

President Hiroyasu Kobayashi,

Timor-Leste Ambassador Filomeno

Aleixo da Cruz 7. Yuko Hayashi (wife

of the Yemen Ambassador to Japan),

Bill, Trends International’s Nobuko

Saito, Tamy Ozeki 8. Hisanaga

Shimazu, visiting Omani Royal family

member Sayyid Munthir Al Busaid,

Takako Shimazu (sister of the

Emperor) 9. Maali Siam (Palestine),

her son Amr, his friend Monika

10. Jordan Ambassador Demsye

Haddad, his wife Shifa, Metropolitan

Police’s Toshihiko Matsumaru

11. Takako Shimazu, Bosnia &

Herzegovina Ambassador Anesa

Kundurovic, Hisanaga Shimazu

44 | FEBRUARY 2017 | TOKYO WEEKENDER


crowd of diplomats, government officials, business leaders, sports

figures, art, fashion and Algerian students studying and working in

Japan. It was nice seeing two friends who dress as far-out as I do

– noted gospel singer Alex Easley and international photographer

Benjamin Lee. Benjamin travels a lot and was just back from Europe

and we talked about his work and experiences there. I also talked

with two Japanese friends who are unconventional dressers: Toshio

and Fumiko Motoya. She’s the lady who always wears a hat. She and

her husband own the huge APA Hotel Chain, and she’s the poster girl

for many of their billboards and other advertisements. If you are as

successful as the Motoyas you can get away with wearing anything.

I noticed one tall foreigner I didn’t know getting a lot of attention,

so I walked over and introduced myself. He spoke French, and

I don’t, but we were able to communicate enough to exchange name

cards and take a photo. He turned out to be Japan Football Association’s

head coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, a really cool man. I was

also happy to meet the new Egyptian Ambassador, Ismail Khairat.

He was really surprised to hear I had visited his marvelous country

15 times, had coffee with former Egyptian First Lady Jehan Anwar

Sadat, greeted President Anwar Sadat sitting in a chair at their garden

by the Nile, and had a great seat for Frank Sinatra’s concert in

front of the Pyramids and the Sphinx that night.

OMAN’S SUPER CELEBRATION – PALACE HOTEL

For their big celebration of Oman’s National Day, the popular couple

Ambassador Khalid Al-Muslahi and his wife Aisha Abeer hosted a midday

reception in one of the ballrooms of the luxurious Palace Hotel’s

Yamabuki Room.

The Al-Muslahis have many friends from all walks of life, including

one of our city’s most popular couples, Takako Shimazu, the sister

of the Emperor and her husband, Hisanaga. I also was happy to

see both Kuwaiti Ambassador Abdul-Rahman Al-Otaibi and his wife

Jamilah, both back from their gorgeous and super nice daughter

Hala’s wedding in Kuwait City. Another special guest at the Oman

celebration was a young man from Oman’s royal family, Sayyid

Munthir Al Busaid. Oman, according to world traveler Lilo Maruyama,

is a dream destination. Hope to meet Sayyid in this very special

country later this year.

Kudos to the Omanian embassy chef who’s from Lebanon, and the

hotel’s food and beverage department. They worked together on preparing

the beautiful buffet of Arab, Japanese and Western favorites.

Like anything Khalid and Abeer do, it was an elegant, colorful, and

thoroughly enjoyable event.

GOD BLESS THEM ALL

I, like all of you, know it’s all a part of life, but still find it difficult to

write about when good friends pass away. 2016 was a tough year

with the loss of a lot of people I had the privilege of knowing.

These included superstars Prince, David Bowie, and George

Michael. We lost two great ladies in films over the holidays as well.

I’d never met Debbie Reynolds, but got to know her daughter Carrie

Fisher when she was here with Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford to promote

the first Star Wars. Thanks to friends at Toho, I could set up a

private screening of an Akira Kurosawa film that the Star Wars stars

wanted to see. It went OK, but Kurosawa-san joined us about 15 minutes

after the very long film was running. The only problem was that

Harrison had jet lag and I had to quietly wake him up several times.

Sorry about all the name dropping but that’s part of the job, and

even I find it difficult to realize how many wonderful people I’ve met

over the years. I know I may come off like a groupie, but, as the line in

Barbara Streisand’s famous song goes: “People who like people are the

luckiest people in the world.” I really feel my friends don’t have to be

superstars. They just have to be nice, thoughtful and interesting and

there are so many out there – really good people from all walks of life

who left us.

A classic example whom some of you might have met was Jane

Yonamine. This beautiful, always chic lady was married to baseball

legend Wally Yonamine. Jane and he were both born in Hawaii, and

spent many of their later years there and in Japan. She was the first

Japanese-American to go into the pearl business, back in 1964. Her

Tokyo shop is on the fifth floor of the art shop building at Roppongi

Crossing, right across the street from the busy police box there. She

ran the shop for 53 years, and with her outgoing personality, she made

it a must-visit for anyone who wanted the highest quality pearls available.

The walls in her shop are covered with photos of the many celebs

and other VIPs who were her customers and friends. These included

our mutual friend Elizabeth Taylor, other showbiz luminaries, business

leaders, top government officials, and royalty.

In addition to being a great mother to her son Paul and daughters

Amy and Wallis, she was a good businesswoman and a great friend.

Jane was a real philanthropist as well who not only helped many

worthwhile causes – which included their church, the Franciscan

Chapel, and their children’s schools (St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart) –

she also reached out and helped many new expat wives learn to adjust

to living in and loving Japan. She also paid for many boxes of clothes,

toys, and medicine that I sent to the less fortunate in the Philippines

and Papua New Guinea, and she gave me pearl bracelets for the little

girls at my annual orphans party at the Tokyo Hilton.

Jane passed away peacefully in Los Angeles on December 5,

2016, surrounded by her family – this includes seven grand-children

and four grandchildren. Jane’s daughter-in-law Lynda is now

running the Pearl shop in memory of Jane and Wally. Thanks to her

and many others for the memories, friendship, and support – God

bless their souls.

On a happier note, I’d like to say congratulations to Mick Jagger,

who celebrated the birth of Deveraux Octavian Basil, his eighth child, in

December. Still full of mojo at 73, Mick doesn’t just have “Sympathy

for the Devil” – he might have made a deal with him for all that

youthful vigor! Here’s to more good news like this in 2017.

Chief Rabbi Binyomin Edery of Tokyo and four of

his nine children at National Azabu during the

Hanukkah holiday

Steven Haynes and his nephew Shaka Haynes with

Dermazone's Atsushi Sudo at Shibuya Segafredo

In Hiroo: Someone who’s not afraid

to make an ass of himself

TOKYO WEEKENDER | FEBRUARY 2017 | 45


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